no novian but one; a song with a mission (dolorosa_12) wrote,
no novian but one; a song with a mission

December talking meme - Day 6

[personal profile] dhampyresa asked me to talk about 'things I wish people in fandom knew'. For the purposes of this post, I'm interpreting fandom as fanworks (fanfiction, fanart, reviews, commentary, meta, and other types of fan creation, made as an unpaid hobby) fandom, and mainly the corners thereof with which I'm more familiar ('Western media fandom', as it's sometimes called). I do not think of fandom as a monolith, and when I talk about 'fandom' in this post, I'm talking about the parts of it in which I hang out, not every single fannish community in every corner of the internet.

Honestly, the one thing I wish people in fandom knew is fannish history.

I'm not talking about having an encyclopedic knowledge of the writing of Robert Heinlein, or knowing exactly which obscure fanzine was the originator of the term 'slash' - those sorts of things are often used as gatekeeping, and I think gatekeeping in fandom is a terrible and harmful thing. What I'm talking about is knowing where fandom has been before: what mattered, what were the burning issues being debated, what were the controversies, what were the established norms (and, if these changed, why), and who was having these conversations, and where. That way, we could avoid fighting the same battles over and over again, every time fandom moves to a new platform, or every time a new cohort of people enters fandom.

Tied up in this is my sincere wish that people in fandom cared more about written records. To put it plainly, it worries me that so much fannish activity is currently taking place on Tumblr - an unstable platform in which links can be broken whenever a user changes their username, and which is owned by Yahoo. It worries me that a lot of the platforms previously used for keeping records are now obsolete, or were taken down in response to complaints by people who were recorded there behaving in an unflattering light. It worries me that we are so reliant on platforms not owned by us, and that the transmission of fannish history is dependent on a mixture of web archiving and, essentially, oral history. (This is also why I am generally in favour of platforms like Dreamwidth and Archive of Our Own. It's really important to have platforms owned and curated by members of fandom, because they're less vulnerable than those owned externally.) I don't think of myself as a particularly long-standing member of fandom - I've only been here for nine years - and already I can recall multiple attempts at large-scale rewriting of history, history that I was around to witness and events that I know went down in a very different way to how they're now being portrayed.

I worry about this because it leaves fandom, especially its newer, younger, or otherwise more vulnerable members, open to the manipulations of abusive people. Two recent examples spring to mind: in the wake of the US election result, I witnessed two notorious scammers and abusers (one of whom has literally used fandom to create a cult, on at least three occasions) promoting themselves as figures of trust and authority to LGBT youth traumatised by the prospect of a Trump presidency. I'm positive that most of the people sharing these scammers' words and promoting them as helpful sources had no idea of their history, and their repeated, troubling patterns of behaviour. But this - while an extreme example - is exactly why I think keeping good records of fannish history is so important. It's not so we can have examples of bad behaviour from far in the past that we can constantly hang over people's heads. It's so that we can establish patterns of behaviour, so that fans both old and new can make up their own minds, using people's words and deeds to determine whether they are trustworthy, whether they've genuinely changed, or whether they're someone to be avoided. It's so we can help people to recognise a potential scam. It's so that we can avoid fighting the same battles over and over again, and reach out to others with whom we share common experiences, interests, and approaches to fandom. It's so we can look back at where we failed in the past, and try to be better.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Tags: me-me-me-meme
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded